From 1 to 5 February 2021, the students of the EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies programme at the College of Europe in Bruges embarked upon tense negotiations to find a response to two concrete, hypothetical crisis situations in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood and in the Middle East. During an entire week, the students transformed into staffers at the European External Action Service and the European Commission, Working Group experts, Ambassadors to the Political and Security Committee and Foreign Ministers from the EU member states as well as critical journalists representing POLITICO, EURACTIV and Le Monde. The students discussed varying topics, ranging from efforts to provide humanitarian aid to setting up a fact-finding mission on the ground to clarify the eruption and evolution of hostilities. The teams drafted member-state position briefs, option papers, Council Decisions and Conclusions and press releases. Moreover, the students were active on a special ‘Tuiter’ platform created for the simulation.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the simulation game for the first time took place online. For the practical exercises only a very limited presence of the headquarter’s EU representatives was possible whereas the national delegations joined virtually from their capitals, using various online platforms for promoting their objectives and seeking consensus. Following tough negotiations, an EU common response to the two crises was agreed. This response included for the first crisis an allocation of additional funding for providing humanitarian aid, in the form of medical assistance to alleviate consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the second crisis, the Foreign Affairs Council decided to support the establishment of the European Union Policing Mission (EUPOL).
This annual simulation game is an integral part of the study programme. Directed by an negotiation expert, Alejandro Ribó Labastida, and Quentin Weiler, Head of the Political Section/Deputy Head of Delegation at the European Union Delegation to Chile, it offers a realistic experience of EU crisis management by immersing students in a compact, high-pace exercise which allows them to apply their knowledge on EU external action and their bargaining skills acquired in the courses they followed in the first semester. Rector Federica Mogherini joined the final debriefing session, sharing with students her experience as former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.